Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Wine, wine, Christmas wine

The bottle/bottles keep pouring just lately but of course I'm not complaining 😉

First a late update on our tasting night at Nuneaton North Scout Group. I've been doing these tasting nights for the last couple of years for the leaders and adults in the Group, always a fun night and a bit of a 'thank you' for all the time they give freely for the youngsters.

16 bottles this time from all over the world and all perfect in some way for Christmas. I'm so very grateful to Yalumba, Negociants, Les Dauphins and Jo Thompson who donated some beautiful wine for us to try - thank you 🍷
Our tasting table 
We began with Pink Bubbly from Black Tower, priced at £4.99 from B&M Bargains. Some of the ladies are fans of rose wine and this caught my eye as a great bottle of rosé fizz, nice and light and perfect aperitif.

Celliers des Dauphins Grenache Rose was one of our donated bottles - a lovely rosé that would be great with lunch, the French way.

Moving on to white wines we had quite a range with some new varieties and some known grapes from new locations. I do try to do some food matches and for our Christmas tasting I matched .....snacks !!

Some pairings were hits, some definitely misses, our whites were:

Image result for oxford landing chardonnay
Oxford Landing Chardonnay £5.99 Majestic - grapefruit, pineapple with creamy vanilla - our accompanying snack was salted peanuts !

Alsace Gerwurztraminer £8.00 Morrison's - they kindly sent a voucher so this was a great purchase as it was a little over our budget price of £7.00. It was the first time most had tried this grape with it's distinctive Turkish Delight flavour. As it's good with curry we tried it with Bombay Mix !

Two Sauvignon Blanc's next, one Old World, one New. Asda Bordeaux White £5.97 a lovely citrus nose with a crisp flavour, softer and more subtle than our New World Mudhouse Sauvignon Blanc with it's full nose of gooseberries and citrusy mouth. The room was split when asked which was best but both wines were enjoyed.

Yalumba Viognier, kindly donated by Negociants, was another first. This full bodied white with its peach and apricot flavour was enjoyed with goats cheese, as was our final wine Sauvion Chenin Blanc £5.99 Majestic. This French white had a delicate nose and a crisp white apple taste which was perfect with the cheese.

Bubbly time - as you'll have noticed in my previous post we all enjoyed the Heidsieck Gold Top Champagne at our Majestic tasting but it is a little pricey especially if you have a large family and need a few bottles to go round.

Image result for burtons fish and chips crispsMy bubbly choice was Philippe Michel Cremant de Jura £7.29 Aldi. This 100% Chardonnay Bubbly is gull of elegance with an array of bubbles, crisp apples and perfect acidity in its finish.

Champagne or a good bubbly is the perfect match for fish and chips so that's what we had 😉

Time for our reds with a bit of comparing. Many of the chaps like Cotes du Rhone wine, as I mentioned before Celliers des Dauphin kindly donated some wine, two of which were Cotes du Rhone. I also bought one of their wines from Asda £6.00 so we had three french reds all from the same winemaker.
Our three Cotes du Rhone 

I must just add that some of the wine photos are not taken by me - unfortunately I forgot on the night :( and for some reason Blogger is jumping around so who knows what the layout will be - probably look ok if you're reading after a glass or two haha

Back to the tastings - our three reds were Vineyards Cotes du Rhone, Cotes du Rhone Villages and Cru des Cotes du Rhone, all full of fruit, deep flavours and a touch of pepper in their finish. No bottle came out as favourite they were all lovely bottles of wine from this great region of France.

Image result for yalumba y series cabernet sauvignon
Our next red was Vina Maipol Merlot, a wine none of us had tried before. Merlot is a favourite of one of our chaps and this did not disappoint with it's deep ruby cherriness. The second bottle kindly donated by Negociants was Yalumba Y Series Cabernet Sauvignon. I do enjoy Yalumba wine and earlier in 2015 my Hubby and I were so lucky to attend one of their Butcher, Baker and Winemaker dinners hosted by their chief winemaker Louisa Rose.

This Cabernet Sauvignon is soft and warming on the palate, full of fruit with leafy notes. It makes you want to settle on the sofa with the fire roaring on a winter's night.

And so to our final two - in my opinion the nicest Malbec from Argentina, Trivento Malbec. I've enjoyed this wine many times, and we've had it at previous tasting. It was again enjoyed by everyone, even more so with the chorizo snack. Our final wine also paired really well with the spicy sausage, El Bombero. This Spanish wine was one of my Dad's favourites, we've had this at our house since he passed away and thought it time to enjoy this 2008 red. It was so rich, deep and very warming, it's 15% very apparent, a great wine to finish our tasting .....

.... but not quite as I had a little surprise. I had baked a carrot cake and to accompany this I took a bottle of my homemade elderflower wine made in 2014. Oh it was delicious, so syrupy, so smooth, absolutely perfect with the cake. I do have two bottles left and will be definitely making more in 2016 so here's hoping for some beautiful blooms.

It was another super night, great fun tasting some great wines.

I have been very lucky to be chosen as a wine reviewer for Aldi. They very kindly send two bottles for me to taste and review - the tasting is certainly not a difficult task however the review is slightly more tricky as it has to be in the for of a tweet on Twitter so can only be 140 characters. So far I have reviewed these four super wines:

Valdobbiadene Prosecco dancing bubbles, golden straw colour, pear & floral nose, applely palate, crisp finish, perfect

pale pear colour, crisp nose with flavour of melon & apple, a creamy long finish - gorgeous 🍷

foamy burst settling to delicate bubbly, super citrus nose, full of tropical flavours

Baron Amarillo Rioja Reserva - blackcurrants & cherries developed 3 years in oak releasing vanilla and spicy finish :)

And today to my complete surprise UPS knocked the door with another parcel.It looked like the Aldi wine deliveries but I wasn't expecting a delivery. The parcel contained two lovely looking bottles of Pinot Noir which after a little questioning tweet revealed they were in fact my next two tasting bottles - perfect for Christmas. Thank you Aldi :)

As for our Christmas wines .... I have no idea as yet - so many lovelies in our rack but I am driving for many of the festive days so they may have to be enjoyed another time. I hope you have enjoyed my wine/travel blog in 2015, we've one more little holiday before 2015 finally fizzes out and I'm 100% certain there will be plenty of wine, holidays and special moments to blog about in 2016.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Majestic wine course

Our local Majestic store is not really local being 20 miles away, however we hop on the train fairly often and enjoy a browse along the vast array of inviting bottles. Last Sunday we enjoyed another visit, this time with a group of friends, taking the opportunity to add in lunch too.

Our party of eight included two ladies in wheelchairs and although I was anxious in planning/making the train journey Cross Country trains were very helpful. I popped into the station a few days before to buy our tickets as we had various combinations; Railcard holders, Concessions with the wheelchairs, peak or off -peak - all to be considered.
Image result for cross country trains

Tickets purchased I was advised to contact their Travel Assistance team, where a very helpful chap took all our details including asking if we needed help with getting in and out of a taxis, had luggage or needed help getting to and from each station - he emailed me confirmation details within minutes of my call. Their customer service continued to impress as ramps were ready at each station, on and off, and so our journey to Leicester had begun.

The Parcelyard is a great pub located right next to Leicester Station - almost a secret as it's frontage looks nothing like a pub. Once the sorting office and parcel yard for British Rail it it now serves Steamin' Billy Real Ales as well as a selection of guest beers. They also serve good wine and great cocktails.
Image result for steamin billy

Their Sunday lunch menu at £10 for 2 courses or £12 for 3 had quite a choice. Our choices included garlic mushrooms, chicken pate for starters; roast beef or roast pork Sunday dinners; sticky toffee pudding, vanilla cheesecake, peach melba sundae for dessert. Great food all round.

And so to our main purpose - our wine course at Majestic. Just a short stroll from the pub we arrived to find tables laid with 6 wines poured ready, however before beginning on the first white we all enjoyed a glass of Italian Prosecco.

Prosecco Romeo & Juliet
 A lively bottle of bubbles poured with a fine light mousse settling into an off-dry applely easy drinking wine. Prosecco Romeo & Juliet was a perfect way to start our course, a great idea for pre-dinner drinks.

Our course began with three white wines - very different in the glass ranging from very pale to golden yellow. We had no idea of the wine varieties as all the bottles were hidden away.

I'm a big fan of sauvignon blan, especially from the Loire Valley, more especially Sancerre, but to my amazement I did not get the first wine at all - finding it having a pear drop taste. Others noted green apples and crispness and I wondered if I had a different wine as it was a Tourraine Sauvignon. Maybe my taste bud were still holding the sticky toffee pudding from lunch.

Our three whites 
Two wines to compare next, first a lovely chardonnay from France - Macon-Lugny. Full of apples with a hint of citrusy lemon this chardonnay would be perfect with cheese or a creamy chicken dinner.

Our second was also a chardonnay but this time from Chile, Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Chardonnay. This is one of my favourite chardonnays with it's added creaminess from being aged in oak for 3 months. It's full of peaches and apricots with a smooth finish.

Next was a real treat - another glass of bubbles - this time champagne and my Hubby knew instantly it was Heidsieck Monopole Gold Top 2009.

Hubby's favourite
We enjoyed a glass of Gold Top on our 25th Wedding Anniversary on our Seine River Cruise and although we both enjoy Nicolas Feuillatte this is a beautiful champagne full of elegant bubbles, biscuity flavour and a subtle dryness giving a soft full finish. Everyone enjoyed this champagne and is perfect for special occassions without being over priced.

Celebrating with Heidsieck Monopole
Moving on to our three reds, quite different in colour ranging from light with scarlet hues to very deep red with crimson highlights. The first was from Chile, Errazuriz Estate Series Pinot Noir. It was full of strawberries and cherries with a hint of smokiness from it's aging. I think for me I would prefer this with food, it would be perfect with the Sunday dinner we had at the Parcelyard.

A french red for our second tasting, a lovely bordeaux from Medoc. Cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes filled this bottle giving great depth of fruit and long finish. and our third red was a new concept to me, an Australian Malbec. I've enjoyed many malbecs from Argentina my favourite being Trivento Golden Reserve. This was full of cherries and dark fruit with that characteristic hint of spice on the finish - a little pricy but Smooth Operator Malbec Two Hands is a lovely wine.

Majestic Wine Courses always involve a bit of food pairing - and not always to show the good matches. We had great fun tasting tomatoes, smoked salmon, spicy crisps, goats cheese and pate with the various wines, some were amazing others were absolute disasters resulting in some very funny face pulling !

I love baking and often bake Nigella's Chocolate Guinness Cake which is a hit with everyone. I made two to take to Majestic (without the topping), one for our our tasting and the other for the staff to share over the week - I wonder how long it lasted. it's a very rich cake which you could pair with a heavy red but was especially good with our final wine ...... The Noble Wrinkled Riesling,

Amazing dessert wine
This dessert wine is so smooth, full of peaches, candied peel, honey, everything puddingy ! it was a real melting moment to sit and enjoy it's syrupy smoothness with a super finish of barley sugar. I'm very happy to now have one residing at Maison Hearnden ready for the upcoming festivites (if it lasts that long).

After browsing Majestic's vast array of bottles and making our purchases we happily wandered back to the station, caught our train with precise assistance from both station guards and made our way home feeling very satisfied from a day of great company, good food and amazing wine.

Thank you Cross Country, The Parcelyard and huge thanks to Majestic Leicester !

A fantastic range for our wine course at Majestic 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Tesco Wine Fair 2015

This was our 7th or maybe 8th year of attending the Tesco Wine Fair. It is always a great event and where over the years Hubby and I have learnt so much more about wine. It is probably the catalyst of our very enjoyable hobby; a hobby that is full of discovery, enjoyment, new friends and a glass or two along the way.

This year we chose the London fair, we have previously been to Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham but have always enjoyed the London one the most. A new venue this time, Olympia, but still an easy journey thanks to Virgin Trains and London Underground

Olympia was a lovely venue, a little tricky to find the right hall as there were other shows on too, but once inside everything was on one level with plenty of room between the stands. The cloakroom is a real necessity as it is impossible to balance coats, wine glass, show guide and pen, so after depositing our outdoor attire we began our wine journey 2015. 

Usually we begin our fair with a glass of Nicolas Feuillatte champagne but unfortunately they did not attend this year. Instead we headed for our other French favourite - Les Dauphins. Hubby and I have been buying this wine in France for many many years and a few bottles can always be found in our cellar. It was a real delight for us to find Les Dauphins now available in the UK both red and white. 

Having chatted with Jo online it was great to meet her in person, such a lovely lady. As well as Jo we also met up with two of our online wine friends; Dave & Agnes, who we see quite often, and Keith & Di, our first actual meeting. Dave and Keith are members of my wine forum Cuvée Reserve - a great place for sharing our wine finds. It's always good to meet with wine friends and share our discoveries.
Di, Keith, Nick (Hubby), Me, Agnes & Dave  at Les Dauphns
And so to the wine - 49 stands each with 5/6 wines. We have in the past used various systems; whites then reds, numerical stand order, up and down the rows; but any such plan soon dissolves as the tasting progresses.

This year we did 'just roaming' and wandered around trying whatever caught our eye, some old favourites and some new names. There are far too many wines to mention them all but these were our highlights of 2015, only a few notes as writing is not easy when wine tasting standing up !

Les Dauphins

Simply Cotes du Rhone Villages 2014, a lovely red that reminded me of our holidays.

Tesco finest Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu 2014, a nice hint of spice.

Mud House 

The Woolshed Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014, perfect light sauvignon nose with a burst of flavour.

Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2014, one of my favourites at home, I tried the 2015 too and am eagerly awaiting its shelf arrival, a lovely sauvignon blanc.

Jacob's Creek 

Jacob's Creek Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV, a lovely glass of bubbles that is produced in the vat rather than the bottle, great value bubbly.

Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz 2013, nice and rich with that must have touch of spice.

Jacktone Ranch

Jacktone Ranch Pinot Noir 2014, Hubby preferred this pinot noir after trying a few others at the show.

Jacktone Ranch Viognier 2013, very smooth, peachy notes, a lovely wine.

Borgo Molino Motivo Prosecco NV, so many small light bubbles, a real foamer. 

Trivento, Cono Sur & Concho y Toro

Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, an absolute favourite of mine, so rich, full of fruit and a long warming finish.

Marques de Casa Concha Syrah 2012, unexpectedly smooth and almost creamy red, again full of fruit.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015, another that is always in our cellar, crisp and clean, perfect well chilled.

Tesco finest 

Vina del Cura Rioha Reserva 2010, Hubby's favourite in his rioja hunt.

Vina del Cura Rioja Gran Reserva 2008/9,  a little longer in the barrel, more vanilla.

Alsace Gewurztraminer 2013, turkish delight heaven, lovely wine.

Blanquette de Limoux 2012/2013, great bubbles from the South of France.  

North Row Vineyard Sauvignon 2014, full nose,                                                                                       crisp palate, a very good wine.

I did tend to try more reds this show although whites are my favourites. I know much more about white wine and so decided to try a few more reds. Tesco had a great 'What's Your Flavour' stand with 6 whites and 6 reds to try but without seeing the labels. It wasn't a blind tasting (we missed that bit of the show) as each wine had it's grape description. 

A great idea to learn more about the different grape flavours from Crisp and Fresh whites through to Full Bodied and Spicy reds. My favourite was the Tesco finest Cotes de Cascogne 2014, a rich and fresh white full of citrus and green apples. 

And so to my show favourites:

 - my favourite white 

Jackson Estate Stich Sauvignon Blanc 2013, inviting nose full of citrus and gooseberries, intense flavour with a lovely long finish. 

 my favourite red -

Yalumba Y Series Shiraz Viognier 2013, a great blend of red shiraz and 
white viognier with a palate full of blackberries, 
rich finish that lasts and lasts. 

- my favourite bubbles

Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Champagne Brut NV - a lovely array of crisp bubbles with a biscuity flavour. 

This is our second favourite champagne (our favourite not being at the show), we've enjoyed many glasses but our most memorable was in 2014 on a river cruise of La Seine in Paris on our 25th       Wedding Anniversary. 

It was another great show, thank you Tesco Wines.

We enjoyed some great wines, chatted with very knowledgeable staff - 

lovely lady from Blanquette de Limoux
great chap from Bottle Green
generous lady from Mud House
enthusiastic Hector from Pernod Ricard 
and the 
lovely, lovely Jo from Les Dauphins

and met fellow wine appreciators, including our lovely friends. 

See you all next year and remember ....

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Beautiful Icmeler

Leaving a wet Midlands behind we began our second trip to Turkey. Having enjoyed a relaxing, pampered holiday in October 2014 we rebooked for 2015 as soon as we arrived home ..... and now the return holiday had begun.

The flights from Birmingham were perfect, leaving reasonably early in the morning, allowing time for breakfast after check in. Although the flight is 4 hours and the transfer nearly two the journey passed quite quickly, especially the coach drive to Icmeler with amazing views of the Turkish countryside and the steep mountain passes.

Sentido Sea Star, with it's huge glass frontage looked as grand as ever. Pampering began as soon as we stepped off the coach with our luggage being taken in and a welcome greeting at reception. Having stayed before we had asked for a room in a specific area of the hotel, to our amazement we had been given the top floor full sea view room, a real treat.
View from our balcony
Our beautiful double balcony room 
Sentido Sea Star is a real jewel of a hotel, settled inconspicuously on the edge of Icmeler it is not one of the large big sprawling hotels but a small, personal 90 bedroomed adult only haven to relax in. The whole hotel is built with comfort, ease and relaxation in mind, no steps between rooms, corridors or the outside; marble floors, surfaces and columns shine; sunloungers by the pool and on the beach always available; fresh food in constant supply with three main meals a day plus snacks; two well stocked 24 hour bars; and an amazing team of staff, always smiling, always wanting to help, giving a real family atmosphere with staff and guests. Going down to dinner the first night the hotel manager greeted us with huge hugs, having not been in reception when we arrived it was a lovely feeling to be recognised and greeted with such joy. 

Having visited Icmeler previously but due to my health not enjoying all it offered, thiis year we already had activity plans, one of which included swimming in the beautiful pool. It was 28+ degrees most days with beautiful blue skies and although the pool was chilly and took your breathe away initially, it was lovely to swim in the afternoon sun. I have not been swimming for about 10 years; I swam 10 lengths most days enjoying the quietness of an adult only hotel. 

Beautiful relaxing pool in the afternoon sun
We wandered more too, strolling into Icmeler most evenings. A beautiful walk as the sea front promenade is right outside our hotel. It does actually runs from Marmaris to Icmeler; intricate block paving, flat all the way but a little far for me at 8 km but strolling into and along Icmeler centre is a perfect distance. Two canal walkways lead to the town square, wirh many many shops selling a variety of goods. Turkish restaurant and shop owners are keen for you to spend money with them but are quite respectful when declined. I managed to safely bring home a couple of mosaic lights to increase last year's collection. We managed to find the small market in Wednesday morning this year, so much fruit and veg looking bigger and better than in our supermarkets.

Icmeler promenade
We took two ferry boat tripsthis year; one to Marmaris which is a lovely 30 minute trip across the bay giving great views of our hotel and the many huge hotels along the bay into Marmaris; the other trip was in the other direction, actually out to sea through the gap visible from our balcony to Turunc. A smaller version of Icmeler in a beautiful bay and great bars along the waterfront. The cliffs along the way had some amazing geographical features, and a half finished remote hotel built into the cliffs. A party pirate ship sailed by looking very impressive on the Agean Sea and full of happy holiday makers looking forward to a day cruise including a dip in the sea.  
Our little ferry boat
Pirates Ahoy
Our room in the hotel was serviced so well every day - the complimentary mini bar was restocked everyday. As well as cleaning our room maid always left a piece of art work on our bed. 

Towel art dog
A bed of hearts
Beautiful swans
Friday night was Turkish night and in place of the usual green or orange tablecloths each table had beautiful Turkish cloths. The food was always good but Turkish night was my favourite with plenty of Meze including vine leaves and varieties of cous cous, traditional kebabs and an array of sticky, sweet baklava. 

Nick on Turkish night
Turkish night
Turkish meze
The weather was perfect to sit late at night on the ratan sofas enjoying a glass of wine or something stronger. The ratan sofa made a comfy seat anytime of day and I was usually accompanied by a ginger cat. All the cats are wild but adopt a hotel or house, they appear at meal times but just sit and wait for tip bits. They never jump on the tables or enter the actual hotel but they do jump on the sofas for some fuss. The ginger one appeared almost as soon as I sat down, even our last morning as we waited for our coach. One afternoon he/she joined me on my sunlonger although it soon felt like I was the guest.
Ginger friend
It's my sunlounger
We had an amazing holiday returning home feeling relaxed, tanned and pampered - our return trip for 2016 is already booked as it is the perfect chill down as the year draws to an end.

As you can see we smiled all holiday and enjoyed a view to melt your heart - thank you Sentido Sea Star

Loving our ferry ride 
Enjoying the view of Icmeler
Stunning view